Tsang accepts Legco invite as impeachment bid looms
Emily Tsang and Tanna Chong
Donald Tsang Yam-kuen will attend a special Legislative Council meeting on Thursday to explain the favours he enjoyed from his tycoon friends - but lawmakers may still start impeachment proceedings against him if he fails to give them what they consider satisfactory answers.
As Tsang's popularity continues to plunge, lawmakers have said they will ensure 'by whatever means it takes' that he attends the meeting, and have threatened to impeach him if he refuses to attend.
The chief executive's office issued a statement last night saying Tsang had agreed to attend the special question-and-answer session.
His popularity hit a record low in a recent poll amid allegations of collusion and corruption. He has denied the accusations but on Sunday admitted he 'may have fallen short of the public's expectations'.
According to a survey by Chinese University, Tsang's popularity rating in February reached 45.1 out of 100, down 2.7 points from the previous month.
The poll also found 44.1 per cent of respondents were dissatisfied with his government's performance, up 9.1 per cent from the previous month.
Democrat lawmaker Lee Wing-tat said impeachment would be a 'death penalty' for Tsang and would be used only as a last resort.
'We are giving him a chance to offer an explanation,' he said, referring to the provisions under the Powers and Privileges Ordinance. 'We will initiate the impeachment if all efforts go in vain - which is a death penalty and very disgraceful.'
Labour Party chairman Lee Cheuk-yan said: 'We need more information to judge if there is a basis behind the abuse-of-power claims, and if an impeachment is justified. There are too many questions about the favours left unanswered, including who offered him the Phuket trip.'
Civic Party leader Alan Leong Kah-kit had reservations about any move towards impeachment, saying he preferred to wait for more evidence to emerge from an Independent Commission Against Corruption investigation.
According to Article 73(9) of the Basic Law, the first stage of impeachment proceedings will start if one quarter - at least 15 - of Legco members submit a motion to charge Tsang with serious breach of law or dereliction of duty.
An investigating committee may then be set up to decide whether to pass a motion to progress to the second stage, but such a motion needs to be supported by a two-thirds majority of all lawmakers - an unlikely outcome - before it can be referred to the central government for a decision.
People Power lawmaker Wong Yuk-man acknowledged there was a slim chance of impeaching Tsang, but said it would make history.
'At least we can leave him on history as the first-ever chief executive against whom impeachment proceedings were started,' said Wong.
In response to reports that the ICAC was ready to investigate Tsang, a spokeswoman for the commission said it did not comment on individual cases.
The Democratic Party's acting chairwoman, Emily Lau Wai-hing, also wanted to see the expansion in scope of an independent review committee chaired by former chief justice Andrew Li Kwok-nang.
'The committee should also launch an investigation of Tsang's cases instead of reviewing the rules in general,' Lau said.
The committee began its preparations yesterday.
Lawmaker Tam Yiu-chung, chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said Tsang should give up the penthouse he is renting in Shenzhen from tycoon Bill Wong Cho-bau.